Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York

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Nineteen eighty-four. The title of the novel by George Orwell, and my sophomore year at college. That autumn’s presidential election saw the first ever woman nominated on a major party ticket – Geraldine Ferraro. She was tapped by Walter Mondale to run as his vice-presidential candidate.

It was the first presidential election since I was old enough to vote. (I’d campaigned for John Anderson four years before – “campaigned” being a bit of a euphemism for “going to a few meetings with my mom.”) I deplored what Reagan had been doing to our country, how the Great Communicator communicated a world of moral self-righteousness and exclusivity, cowboys and evil empires, black vs white, where I saw only grey. Election night I knew, we all knew Reagan-Bush would win again, we knew it was a one-sided contest; I made everyone around me swear not to mention the election results, like that would somehow stave off the reality of another four years in the dark.

That’s one example of my ability to stare reality right in the face, and call it something else.

I had taken my campaign sign, sliced it horizontally down the middle, and rearranged the pieces. The blue sign in my dorm room window read “Ferraro-Mondale.”

That’s another.

It would be twenty-four years before there was another woman on a major party ticket; Gerry’s successor turned out to be a governor from a small town in Alaska who based her foreign policy credentials on her ability to “see Russia” from her home state.

Geraldine Ferraro also inspired my college haircut, by the way, because I thought it was cool.

That’s a third.

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